DUP alderman James McClure will tell a meeting of Coleraine Borough Council this evening that it cannot stand back and watch vital services disappear from Causeway Hospital.
And he said any apathy over the Compton Report could prove fatal to the local hospital.
He said: “Almost two decades ago the overwhelming majority of residents in the Causeway area joined the campaign for a new hospital at Coleraine.
“It was perhaps the biggest triumph for people power I have witnessed in my long years in public service. The importance of Causeway Hospital and its vital facilities cannot be underestimated. People here are passionate about retaining their hospital and its range of services.
“As the Assembly plans the way forward for future health care provision in Northern Ireland through its Review, the need to retain essential services such as a hospital at the heart of a huge tourist area and that hospital’s Accident and Emergency services are more important than ever.”
Alderman McClure said that losing A&E services in Coleraine as “unthinkable”
“It would affect ambulance response times, deprive a large rural area of a much-needed service and result in local people having to travel for over an hour to access an A&E.
“At this difficult time economically I think we need to be wary of those who suggest that hospital services should be centralised into a very small number of sites and the influence that school of thought may have on Departmental proposals.
“Such thinking, which may be effective in large urban areas in other countries, does not take into account the rural nature of this area and the effect any such move would have on the rural community particularly.
“I am fearful for the future of health care provision with the likely scenario of four or perhaps five Acute hospitals to serve the entire Province.
“The Causeway lies right in the heart of the North Coast. The removal of the hospital would mean some people living in the area travelling over an hour to their nearest hospital.
“Since it opened in May 2001 the Causeway Hospital has endeavoured to meet that challenge despite the severe difficulties it has encountered due to staffing issues, bureaucracy and the direction of health care planning by those tasked with planning services into a new century.
“Also, given the massive range of tourism events that take place along the north coast, such as the North West 200, The Milk Cup and The Northern Ireland International Air Show, the retention of the Causeway Hospital’s range of services are essential. Just last July, the case of a medical emergency at the Milk Cup involving a young player is a classic example of why A&E at the Hospital is vital.
“This area is Northern Ireland’s premier tourist region and we must ensure it has first class provision for all visitors as well as those of us who permanently reside here.
“When we are talking about Accident and Emergency services we are talking about a potential life and death issue. Having a Department that can deliver immediate attention to patients with life threatening injuries is what is at the core of this issue.
“Life is precious and people living or visiting this area have the right to access A & E services here. Outcomes would be far less satisfactory is those in need of these vital services are forced to travel 40 minutes or more to another area for treatment.
“A life which could have been saved in Coleraine could well be lost, if someone had to travel on to Antrim. In the recent past we have received assurances from a previous Health Minister indicating no plans are currently in place to rationalise services at the Causeway.
“Health cuts by their very nature affect the sick and infirm as well as the elderly who depend on social care services to provide basic support. We know that cuts are coming and we know that they will be severe, unfair, unjust and directed at the most vulnerable people in our society.
“In light of what could well be coming down the line through the current Review of services Province-wide, we must all vigorously ensure that the case for the Causeway Hospital is vigorously made. I would also urge those in the wider community that they need to do likewise.
“In my humble opinion, we need to see the people of this area rise up as they did 20 years ago and speak with one voice – clear and true – loud and long – for the retention of Causeway Hospital and its Accident and Emergency Services. Apathy is our greatest enemy.”